WoW Classic Hardcore: The player-made game mode that puts an extreme twist on Classic World of Warcraft

Activision Blizzard
Activision Blizzard /

The World of Warcraft community’s “Classic Hardcore” craze has been growing in popularity over the last few months. It challenges players to get to level 60 in one life while exploring Azeroth in its “vanilla” state.

One of the most fascinating facets of RPGs and MMORPGs has always been the ability of their respective communities to be able to bring something new to the table; a fresh take on an older concept that keeps the game relevant, and improves on the original concept significantly, adding new features or game modes to continually test the community and help them clear content more efficiently.

Take World of Warcraft for example. From the game’s inception, players have continuously found creative ways to approach the game’s expansive open world and make additions to the original game. These additions, or add-ons, have generally been used to make the game more manageable. Content creators have made add-ons that have done everything from inventory management to quest tracking to creating systems that help alert players to dungeon and raid mechanics, all of which have proven to be utilitarian additions. Blizzard themselves eventually added some of these features into the game to make it more “player friendly”, such as a quest tracker that was likely inspired by the add-on “Questie”.

Classic Hardcore: An extreme yet exciting take on Classic WoW

In more recent times, however, add-ons have taken on a new role. Instead of trying to make the game easier, some add-ons have been created with the notion to make the game harder, or more competitive. The most recent of these has been “Classic Hardcore“, an extreme yet exciting take on Classic WoW that has seen an immense growth in popularity quite quickly.

The premise of Classic Hardcore, at it’s core, is simple. The player’s goal is to make make it to level 60 on one life and then gear up to take on one of Classic’s main antagonists: Ragnaros. As the site puts it, “death=delete”, but there are several other parameters surrounding this fan-made game mode. While some of the usual features one might find in World of Warcraft are allowed (professions and talents), things like trading with other players outside of one’s immediate group, the use of auction houses and grouping with other players at random for quests, are not. There are also restrictions surrounding class abilities that adds to the difficulty and strategy that goes into surviving in this player-created competitive landscape.

Players can start their “hardcore run” with one or two other party members that they can quest with, but they must start the run together, or meet up and form a group before they reach level 2. These players must stick together throughout the entirety of their run, making sure to play together and remain in the same zone. The add-on associated with the run can tell whether you are in a group with your duo or trio, and will begin a count-down towards failure if you do not join their group immediately or try to play alone. The players are also bound to each other in death; should one player in a duo or trio fall, then all party members are considered void and the run must be restarted. A full, comprehensive list of the rules can be found here.

Once a player has gotten familiar with the rules, all that’s left to do is download the add-on and get started. For my own run, I recruited a friend who actually hadn’t played World of Warcraft before, thinking it could be an interesting  way to introduce them to the game. We made our characters on Bloodsail Buccaneers, an RP server that has become the main hub for the US-based Hardcore classic community.

Adventuring through Azeroth on Hardcore Classic

We decided to make two troll hunters for this run due to my familiarity with the class and the overall survivability it offers. Ranged and eventually pet-based damage would mitigate just how much contact we would have with mobs and give our characters a better chance to escape if need be.

Upon creating the characters and logging in, we set about on our adventure. The first few levels went by with relative ease; we set out from the Den, located in Durotar,  to kill mottled boars and collect scorpid tails. Soon enough, we were tasked with killing the scorpid Sarkoth, and eventually we made our way into the north-western den of the Burning Blade, a cave swarming with demons.

It’s here that I noticed the first difference between this play through and others – while caves such as this are quite commonplace in Azeroth, there was a level of caution that needed to be observed. At any other point in time one might have just rushed through the cave and aimed to kill just what one needed for the quest-line at hand. This time however, the cave needed to be cleared, mob by mob. The consequences of players rushing to complete their tasks in the cave were all around us. Player corpses paved our way as we searched for Yarrog Baneshadow to collect his medallion, and by the time we made it to his location in the cave, we were just in time to watch a pack of demons take out another. We took down Baneshadow with ease but made sure to not rush our way to the entrance of the cave without watching for respawns.

Our adventure continued beyond the reaches of the troll and orc starting zone and we found ourselves collecting quests in Sen’jin village and completing them by killing mobs along the shore and surrounding waters of the Echo Isles. It was here that we ran into our first minor difficulties, with a couple close calls almost ending our hardcore run prematurely. The difference in level with the mobs and our lack of spell diversity due to our own level called for even more caution and some coordination between myself and my duo-partner, especially considering this was his first experience with the game.

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While the difficulty, particularly at these low levels, isn’t extreme, the experience sets the tone for the rest of the run and highlights many of the difficulties one might expect to face as a player moves zones and encounters stronger mobs, not to mention dungeon runs. Making a fresh, low level character definitely adds an air of caution around even the earliest of quests because one wrong move and you may find yourself set upon by much more than you can handle. The risk will surely grow as our run continues, but for now our toons can enjoy the safety of Sen’jin Village until we set forth to take on the rest of the challenges Durotar has to offer.